TAIPEI • Foxconn Technology Group founder Terry Gou (picture) announced yesterday he’s running for Taiwan’s presidency, shaking up a race that will determine whether the island moves closer to China.
The Taiwanese billionaire said he would seek the nomination of the China-friendly Opposition Kuomintang (KMT) party in next year’s election, a process expected to play out in the coming weeks.
He’s looking to unseat President Tsai Ing-wen, whose Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) advocates a more decisive break from the mainland.
“I will participate in the KMT primary,” Gou told reporters in Taipei. “If I win, I will run in 2020 on behalf of KMT.”
He said his core values are “peace, stability, economy and future”.
Earlier in the day, Gou claimed a divine endorsement — support of the Chinese sea goddess Mazu, who he said had encouraged him to “come forward” to support peace across the Taiwan Strait.
“Today, Mazu told me I should be inspired by her to do good things for people who are suffering, to give young people hope, to support cross-strait peace,” Gou said yesterday, adding that the goddess had recently spoken to him in a dream. “I came to ask Mazu and she told me to come forward.”
Gou also visited another temple housing Chinese deity Guan Yu.
His entry in the race further clouds the future of Tsai, who already faces an uphill climb to win a re-election.
She faces her own nomination fight in the DPP, where her pro-independence base is pushing for a cleaner break from the mainland.
To shore up support, she’s recently cracked down on mainland investments, as well as visitors and other potential sources of political influence.
China cut off official communication with Taiwan after Tsai’s DPP ousted KMT from the presidency and parliamentary majority in 2016, citing her refusal to accept that both sides belong to “one China”.
The 68-year-old Gou is Taiwan’s third-richest person and the 442nd in the world, according to the Bloomberg Billionaires Index.
His resources could help him stand out among a field of potential KMT challengers that includes former New Taipei City Mayor Eric Chu and former legislative Speaker Wang Jin-pyng.
Han Kuo-yu and Ko Wen-je, the outspoken mayors of Kaohsiung and Taipei respectively, haven’t ruled out a run.
Yesterday’s Mazu temple visit, in which Gou spoke the Taiwanese language, also demonstrated his retail political skill.
The emphasis on local cultural and spiritual traditions may help counter criticism that he’s too sympathetic to Beijing, where the officially atheistic Communist Party plays down religion and promotes Mandarin.
Gou is known to be religious, and Foxconn factories all over the world have totems of Tudi Gong, the Chinese god of local land.
At the Guan Yu temple yesterday, he said he was waiting for the gods to conduct polls on whether he should run.
“Mazu said the economy would improve following peace and prosperity,” Gou said, adding that he believes the goddess had long supported his business success. — Bloomberg